By and  on February 1, 2008

DESTIN, Fla. — Buyers were awash in new bath and body products at the ECRM show held here.

Manufacturers, scurrying to find ways to pump up sales, are launching items with natural or organic positioning as well as unique packaging. There was also a definite Canadian accent to the show as many suppliers from there took advantage of the exchange rate to show their goods to the more than 80 buyers in attendance.

According to ACNielsen, bar and bath product sales rose 5 percent for the 52-week period ended Dec. 27, 2007 (food, drug and mass excluding Wal-Mart) to $1.9 billion.

Many companies are looking to extend sales from natural food outlets to the mass market. Buyers said they are trying to sort out the complexities of natural and organic. They are awaiting true validation of a product's claim and for some clearing house symbol that will help Americans understand what is really natural or organic. The goal is to make sure consumers don't get disenchanted by poorly performing natural products.

In the meantime, marketers are trying to beat each other out of the gate with items. Some have histories in natural food stores; others are new brands. There was a great emphasis on natural products and packaging, too, with many companies using easy-to-replenish materials such as bamboo. Some retailers said they are hoping to stage promotional activities with organic items around events such as Earth Day.

Out of Africa, for example, has been selling Whole Foods for almost two years and was getting notice at this show for its quality items, such as shea butters, as well as its altruistic efforts in Africa. Among the companies that have added or plan to include Out of Africa in natural sets are Wegmans, Big Y, Safeway, Harmon and Duane Reade

Body America, which gained fame at the National Association of Chain Drug Store's Marketplace meeting last year, also has a natural positioning, but one that Joseph Sasson, executive vice president, hopes takes the message to the next level. "Our packaging is already ahead of the market — we call it organic chic," he said. Body America is extending the line to include scrubs, a foaming body wash and body mists.E.L.F. Cosmetics, known for its value-priced beauty with $1 cosmetics items, has also expanded into bath and body. "We have the unique situation from our loyal Web visitors of knowing what they want and they've asked for bath and body products," said Joseph Shamah, chief executive officer of E.L.F. Cosmetics.

Delicious Brands is launching an exclusive skin care line for Rite Aid called Derma. Conceived in conjunction with Rite Aid category manager Cathy Furtado, the line is the first to feature Delicious Brands' founder Coleen Booth on promotional materials. "This line is great because it covers different ages and needs," said Booth, who added Rite Aid has a one-year exclusive on the line. Also new at Delicious Brands is serious skin care for the entire body. "No one had really done skin care for the body so we came up with Skin Below the Chin. A final new thrust at the company are On the Go packs perfect for travel and including packets of body lotions, nail polish removers and mints."

J.R. Watkins is launching a new line of all-natural products dubbed J.R. Watkins Natural Apothecary. Designed to be at least 95 percent natural, the new formulas eliminate certain ingredients such as parabens, sulfates, glycols and phthalates. Launching in March, the lineup is scheduled to roll out to Target and Ulta, followed by a full rollout in major food, drug and mass stores. In June, the company plans to expand the range by entering into the bath and hair care categories.

Organic Bath Co. is extending beyond its natural distribution with a new antiaging line called Timeless.

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